For a side who professed to have
abandoned the catenaccio style of defence that has served them
so well down the years, Italy have clearly not lost the art of
defending well as they indulge in a more eye-pleasing approach.
A 2-1 semi-final victory over Germany on Thursday, that put
Italy into a Euro 2012 final against holders Spain in Kiev on
Sunday, was founded on the training ground of the Old Lady of
While 'Super' Mario Balotelli will make headlines all round
the world with his superbly-taken double, and Andrea Pirlo again
impressed with a game-dictating midfield display, the unheralded
Italian defence, built on the rock of captain and goalkeeper
Gianluigi Buffon, quietly gets on with the job.
Four of Italy's back five - Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and
the central defensive pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea
Barzagli - helped steer Juventus through an unbeaten league
season which brought the reward of a Serie A title.
The Juve connection is not lost with the fifth man at the
back - Turin-born Federico Balzaretti, the least experienced of
the defensive unit with 11 caps who played over 50 times for
Juventus before being sold in 2007.
It is no coincidence that the mercurial Pirlo now also wears
the black and white stripes of Juve after a long career with AC
At Euro 2012, Italy have conceded just three times in five
games, once against Spain when they frustrated the world
champions for long periods, once against a talented Croatian
side, then right at the death on Thursday through a late
Italy's long line of defensive greats - Giuseppe Bergomi,
Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo
Maldini to name but a few - could have another addition in
The 27-year-old, winning his 54th cap after recovering from
a thigh injury that forced him to miss the quarter-final against
England, did not put a foot wrong as Italy outmanoeuvred Germany
at their own high-tempo game, then soaked up a barrage of late
pressure that led to Mesut Ozil's spot-kick after Balzaretti's
Chiellini was not alone in proving his worth, with his team-mates producing a series of expertly-timed tackles in the
penalty area when Germany, rocked by Balotelli's two first-half
goals, were more threatening after the break.
One by Bonucci epitomised Italy's solidity and went a long
way to making sure Germany's unwanted record of never having
beaten Italy in a competitive game remains.
Having made a double substitution at half-time, Germany began
the second half well and it needed all of Bonucci's confidence
and skill in the 56th minute to commit to a perfect tackle as
Miroslav Klose burst into the area.
Later, when the back four could do nothing but watch as
Marco Reus's free-kick curled over the wall and seemingly into
the roof of the net, Buffon stretched his sturdy frame and
tipped the winger's effort on to the crossbar.
Coach Cesare Prandelli had said he would not alter his
tactics to counter Germany's pressing game and he was true to
With Pirlo not alone in the engine room, Italy build from
the back and through a sturdy midfield containing the steel of
Daniele De Rossi, the guile of Claudio Marchisio and the
Pirlo-esque playmaking abilities of Riccardo Montolivo, provider
of the fine long pass through to Balotelli for their second
Add forward Antonio Cassano, who has recovered from heart
surgery and set up the first goal, to a frontline alongside
Balotelli and it is clear Italy have weapons to threaten Spain.
A second European Championship title, 44 years after their
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